By Jason Hart
Ohio Watchdog

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has spent the past four years growing government, is trying to rebrand himself as a small-government reformer.

The Kasich Action Plan, which his presidential campaign released Thursday, emphasizes balancing the federal budget. Kasich plans to accomplish this by shifting education, welfare and infrastructure programs to the states.

Tailored to draw support from fans of his House Budget Committee chairmanship in the 1990s, the plan would attempt to spur job growth by cutting income tax rates and simplifying the tax code.

Chris Edwards, the libertarian Cato Institute’s director of tax policy studies, told Ohio the Kasich Action Plan would be more compelling if not for Kasich’s record as governor.

While Kasich calls for reducing the number of federal income tax brackets from seven to three via legislation he will propose within his first 100 days as president, Ohio still has nine income tax brackets.

“The plan sounds very fiscally conservative, but Kasich’s been a big spender in Ohio,” Edwards said. “We gave him a grade of D on the last Cato report card. He’s a pretty good tax-cutter, but general fund Ohio spending has gone up 35 percent since he’s been in office.”

Kasich increased Ohio’s General Revenue Fund spending by $4.6 billion in his first two biennial budgets, with spending growth accelerating each year.

“When he was in Congress, he was great. He was very much a fiscal conservative,” Edwards said before noting Ohio’s Medicaid costs “are soaring” because of Kasich’s embrace of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.

Kasich increased Medicaid spending 33 percent during his first term — driven by more than $4 billion in Obamacare expansion money in 18 months.

Ohio’s total Medicaid spending was $17.7 billion when Kasich took office; it was $23.5 billion in the 2015 fiscal year ending in June. Due to Obamacare expansion, Ohio’s Medicaid costs are expected to hit $28.2 billion by 2017.

Kasich supports the federally backed Common Core State Standards Initiative, and he opposes an Ohio House proposal to allow local school boards to opt out of using Common Core math and language arts standards.

“If we want to get serious about economic growth, we need less government and more ‘us,'” the governor asserted in his recent Washington Post column. Four years after the creation of Kasich’s taxpayer-funded JobsOhio, Ohio’s job growth ranks in the bottom 10 nationally.

“I’ve never been uncomfortable with traveling a lonely road. I think that’s what leaders do,” Kasich said in April 2012, when he began pushing for higher severance taxes on oil and natural gas drilling.

In addition to fighting for a severance tax hike, the Republican governor has fought Republican legislative supermajorities for increases in the state Commercial Activity Tax, sales tax and tobacco tax.

The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment about the conflicts between his record and his presidential campaign proposals.

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Jason Hart is's Ohio-based National Labor Reporter. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @jasonahart.